Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Self Revelation

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I had my agnostic brother and my sister who says she’s Christian over for dinner the other night.  We had a great time and got into some pretty deep conversations that were interesting and fun.  We got off on politics and that led to the local school system.  My sister seems to think the downfall of the local public school system is the lack of a prayer/devotional time like we used to have in the good ole days.  Never mind that some students had to excuse themselves and stand in the hallway during that time. 

My brother and I both seemed to agree that the downfall was a lack of parental involvement and discipline.  It used to be that when you  got into trouble at school you knew you’d get into trouble at home, too, if it became too much of a problem for the school to deal with.  None of us ever had that problem because we knew that if the teacher had a talk with mom and dad we’d be dead meat.  Now days if a child gets into trouble at school the parents go down to the school and rip two trips off the teacher for having the audacity to discipline their child.  That is if the the teacher can actually get in touch with a parent.  In our little community there are probably a good 60 percent or more of students who are being raised by a grandparent, an aunt or their older siblings.  It’s not pretty.  I digress…

At some point during the conversation my brother in law said, “When I was a kid I knew if I got a paddling at school I was going to get it when I got home, too.”  My parents didn’t have that rule.  They generally allowed the school to handle our discipline while we were there.  If the school couldn’t handle it, if we became so unruly that the teacher had to make a call home, then they’d get involved and we definitely did not want that.  In the spirit of us being independent and able to take care of ourselves our dad had an additional rule.  He’d better not hear of us starting a fight, but if someone started one with us we’d better defend ourselves.  “Don’t come home crying to me about it.  If somebody else starts it you better finish it.”  That’s what my dad always said.  The only time I can remember getting into trouble at home for something that happened at school was the time a boy bit me on the school bus and I came home crying about it.  My dad asked me what I did about it and I told him nothing.  I got into trouble for not taking up for myself.

Kids being kids I got bullied a little – not a lot – in school.  My older sister took up for me usually.  She looked at me and said, “You’ve always been like that; letting people run all over you.  Why are you like that? You never took any crap off of me.”  She’s pretty feisty.  Kind of like John Wayne toilet paper, that one.  Rough and tough and doesn’t take any crap off of anyone.

The truth is I’d rather be hurt than do the hurting.  That has caused me to be a doormat in the past.  Clearly she’s puzzled by that. Clearly we weren’t raised that way.  I’m not sure why I’m like that, but I know that I am.  I try to steer clear of confrontational situations.  I hate the thought of injuring someone else whether it be their pride, their feelings or their person. 

I’m learning, though.  It’s hard, but I’m learning.  Sparing someone else isn’t always the best thing – for me or them.  I’m learning to take up for myself.  Who knows?  Before I’m done I may have a little John Wayne in me, too.

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5 thoughts on “Self Revelation

  1. "My sister seems to think the downfall of the local public school system is the lack of a prayer/devotional time like we used to have in the good ole days."This line of thinking assumes that religion makes one obedient and morally upright. It ignores the fact that misbehavior can and does occur in heavily religious environments, such as religious schools.

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  2. Weird question: do you have any halfway decent martial arts instructors in your area? I know it's not for everybody, but if part of your issue is that you're worried about hurting someone too much or more than they deserve, then a decent martial art can teach you (viscerally!) about scaled responses. Aikido, for example, is a completely "soft" art – it has no attacks whatsoever. But it can teach you how to avoid or redirect someone else's force without giving ground. Tai Chi (again, if taught well) behaves similarly, but it'll teach you how to give their force back to them. Even something like fencing or MMA can help you get over the idea that it's not okay to be aggressive when you need to. Again, that doesn't work for everybody, but it might be worth a try.

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  3. @Ahab,This same sister prefaced her comment with, "I'm not saying we go to church every Sunday, but when we were in school…" To which my BIL interrupted and said, "Ah hell, let's face it. We've been to church one time in the last ten years." Laughter erupted. But yes, the whole fear of God, specifically the Christian one, is engrained here. My brother has been through a similar process as me. Several years ago he similarly learned that the Bible isn't inerrant, inconsistencies and contradictions in the scriptures, and evolution was the most likely explanation for our existence. He went through a huge depression and held a nihilistic world view for a time. When he found himself wondering what the point of it all was to the degree that he began to feel there was none he snapped back out of that, thankfully. Being a Christian certainly doesn't guarantee moral or ethical behavior. ==============================================@MM,Unfortunately we don't. I've thought about taking some martial arts classes. My BIL dabbles in Tai Chi and has sort of taught me a few moves. He also teaches self defense courses and has taught me a bit of that as well. He was constantly having to remind me that when being attacked your goal is to hurt the other person. You really don't care.My problem extends past a physical thing though. For some reason I seem to think that any pain I inflict on another is too much pain, even if they deserve it.I don't like to be hurt even when I deserve it, so I don't like to hurt others. I apparently have too much empathy.

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  4. D'Ma:It seems to me that an overwheaning concern with hurting others, whether deserved or not, occurs in one of two settings:1) Fundamentalist Christians (but only the "real" ones!) and/or2) Many women who have been raised in authoritarian homes (not only Christian ones, I can assure you.)In my case, neither of the above applied, but when, at about age 15, I nearly killed a kid who had attacked me without cause on my part, I was so horrified that I had the emotional capacity to have done so, I effectively swore off violence or even allowing myself to get angry. This has persisted with very few exceptions to this very day. Please note, however, that I avoid hurting others not for their sakes, but for mine.Harvey

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  5. D'Ma, your tender heartedness sounds so much like one of my aunts. Although she is so sweet that I'm uneasy leaving my kids an extended period of time with her since I can't trust her to enforce appropriate boundaries with them. It can be a safety issue.She is an extremely sensitive individual, like most non-pyschopathic geniuses, and because she feels everything so strongly she assumes all people do. Of course she married a man who feels next to nothing. (He told me that he thinks he was sad when his father died, but that he didn't feel sad.) But she can't imagine a lack of empathy and continues to try and protect others who don't need it.Perhaps you are highly empathetic too? When others hurt, you feel a strong pain, probably a stronger pain than they experience.

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